The Origins of the Bible, Part III Breaking Open the Books of Moses The Torah

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 2 April 2008 0 Comments

The Bible began to be written, relatively speaking, only a short time ago. When one considers the fact that the universe is some 13.7 billion years old and the birth of the planet Earth can be reliably dated between four and a half and five billion years ago, the beginning of Bible writing near 1000BC is very recent.

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Errata and Apology


In my recent column on sexism and racism in this
presidential campaign, I referred to a comment by Carl Bernstein
on "Hillary's thick ankles." I got that reference from a
quotation from feminist writer Robin Murray's recent article in
which she mentions "Carl Bernstein's disgust with Hillary's thick
ankles." I made the assumption, falsely I now recognize, that
this comment had to have been made in the public arena for it to
be quoted in this article in this way. Since Carl Bernstein is a
regular contributor to CNN I jumped to the conclusion that it was
in that context that the comment was made. I now know that this
is incorrect and to the degree that I am able I want to correct
the record and apologize to Carl Bernstein.

The quotation to which I referred comes originally
not from a media comment, but from Bernstein's serious and
generally sympathetic biography of Hillary Clinton. Its context
was also quite different. Bernstein was quoting boys who were
Hillary Clinton's high school classmates describing how they saw
her at that time. In fairness to Carl Bernstein, he also
described some unflattering ways in which Bill Clinton's high
school classmates had remembered him. The meaning I had ascribed
to the quotation in my column was misleading at best and clearly
wrong at worst.

The most important thing that a columnist needs to
do is check sources, even when we assume that they are credible.
I used this quote both in a piece in a series call "On Faith,"
published by the Washington Post, and also in my regular
weekly column published by Waterfront Media. The Waterfront
Media column was actually filed on the Friday prior to the
Tuesday Texas and Ohio Democratic primaries, to be run on
Wednesday after a winner in those primaries had been declared.
My original assumption in the column was that Senator Clinton
would lose one or both of these primaries and be forced to
withdraw from the race.

When she surprised the world yet again and won
both of them, the column had to be cancelled radically revised
and held to run a week later. A column already on file was run
instead. During that week I received the communication from Robin
Morgan with her Bernstein reference. It fitted my thesis so well
that I added it to the column as part of the revision without
checking the accuracy of my source and repeated it in the piece
for "On Faith."

Carl Bernstein called me later to point this out,
to make me aware of the original context and to ask for a
retraction. I am pleased to be able to do just that, both
because I greatly admire this man and the service he has provided
for my country, and also because the quotation disappointed me,
coming as I assumed it had from what seemed to me a surprising

By this statement I hope to repair the damage to
truth done to my readers, both at "On Faith" and Waterfront
Media, caused by my use of this line without understanding the
original context that in fact changed its meaning and also to any
diminution that Carl Bernstein's impressive public image has
endured. Carl Bernstein has assured me that my apology has been
accepted. Apart from that comment, however, I stand by the
thesis and theme of both pieces, namely that sexism is both
rampant and largely unadmitted in American politics.

John Shelby Spong




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